Against a Common Menace (Preview)

Chapter One

Cimarron, New Mexico, 1875

Joseph Moyer didn’t mind the weather when it was overcast, and winds sweeping through the valley carried the cool mountain seeds of termination dust. He had a few months before that happened again. And with the summer sun beating down on his shoulders, Joseph was in no mood to deal with a man like Robert Clay Allison.

Unfortunately, when it came to buying livestock, Clay Allison was the only broker in all of Colfax County. The man was a confirmed and proud Confederate who walked with a limp and chewed rolled tobacco like it was beef jerky. Joseph had waited his place in line outside the town meeting hall until his turn to deal with the businessman.

The sunlight on his shoulders made his neck sweat, causing Joseph discomfort until he went inside the building. Even inside, Joseph had to wait his turn. Each of the cattlemen had privacy with Clay Allison and the man’s accountant. It was better than bidding on prices openly—at least, in theory.

Sometimes, it was impossible for Joseph to hear anything the cattle broker said when he had a fresh hunk of sinewy tobacco cut from a brick and shoved in his jaw.

“Don’t you like that price, Mr. Moyer?” Clay Allison asked. He saw everything from under the wide brim of his hat. The hunting knife he used to slice a wedge of tobacco stuck in the tabletop’s wood grain like a reminder he wasn’t shy about violence.

“I don’t like the price on the heads, Clay.”

“Well, see if you can find someone else to give you a better price.” It came out of him like some foul belch that ended in a laugh. Brown spittle ran over his black beard. Clay didn’t bother wiping at the tobacco juice.

Beside him, Joseph saw the cattle broker’s accountant making notations in a small leather-bound ledger. His ink pen hovered over the open space on the page, waiting for Joseph’s confirmation on the price of livestock or a pass. The studious man had manners and qualities that spoke of visiting easterners. He wore a bowler hat and a necktie with the shirt, and his jacket hung on the chair at his back.

“I’ll take the price,” Joseph said begrudgingly.

Clay slapped the table by the knife, startling the accountant. The scribbling in the ledger next to Joseph’s name had some inkblots.

“Anything else I can do for you, Mr. Moyer?” Clay asked. He leaned back in the chair, and a boot came up. He dropped the boot on the table, and its spur caught in the wood.

Moyer understood the minds of cruel men like Clay to wear spurs. The flanks of his horse probably had deep scars from their dull points. Between sitting down inside Schwenk Hall and leaving the street, Clay had trodden in horse manure, and he clearly didn’t care if it flaked across the desk.

“I think we’re done for now,” Joseph said.

The offer was twenty percent less per head of spring cattle than he’d gotten last year, but the cattle broker had a monopoly on the county. When Joseph turned his back on Clay, he heard the spur scrape the wood. It was an intimidation tactic Clay used against people. Joseph ignored him, refused to face him again.

Other people had business with the man, and Joseph didn’t want to take up any more time than he needed. When Joseph shouldered his way through the door into the sun, he saw Sam Morro leaning against a rattlebox buggy talking to Clarence Ballard, another rancher with a smaller wedge of property near Joseph’s landholdings.

“How’d you do?” Ballard asked, seeing Joseph step off the boardwalk. Schwenk Hall faced the Tuesday afternoon sun, and shade wasn’t available on that side of the street in Cimarron.

Joseph nodded without speaking, scanning the passersby. Talking business around other cattlemen wasn’t something he actively pursued, but Ballard had twenty years on Joseph and wasn’t looking to expand his business. It was Ballard that volunteered his dealing with the former Confederate States Army cavalryman. Ballard wasn’t competition, but the man wasn’t concerned about sharing tidbits with other ranchers. Still, he didn’t seem fazed by Joseph’s unwillingness to share the details of the transaction.

“That bastard just about broke me this season,” Ballard said. “I got thirty percent less on my stock than last season.”

Joseph nodded again before adding, “That’s about the same for me.” He wasn’t tipping his hat at a better deal with the cattle broker. It was private business between men inside Schwenk Hall, but outside, people compared notes.

No one went back to renegotiate with Clay. The man liked to settle disputes with violence. He had a way with the gun that had little to do with his cattle business.

In ’74, Clay had gunned down a man named Chuck Colbert, who’d already shot and killed seven men before his fateful encounter with Clay. He and Colbert had sat down for dinner in Clifton House following the horse races. According to witnesses, there was an altercation between the men following a minor dispute. Some had claimed it had to do with the meal. Others suggested the gunfight followed a verbal argument over a woman.

Joseph and the rest of the people of Cimarron knew Clay had a wife. If Colbert had suggested impropriety on behalf of Clay, it meant that he’d eaten a bullet for dessert following his steak dinner. It was that kind of reputation that made Clay legitimately dangerous and insufferable for proper negotiations. Joseph heard enough about Clay to know a gunman never cared much about holding suitable business, only commerce that suited his whims.

“Clay’s been talking about moving his trade to Santa Fe,” Ballard said.

This piqued Joseph’s interest. He turned from the doorway of Schwenk Hall, where he’d watched another disgruntled cattleman wander outside, stepping into the dry, hot daylight.

“Where’d you hear that?” he asked.

“I was talking to Tom Bogg and Minister Tolby. Word around town is Clay thinks he’ll fare better in the city instead of here in Cimarron.”

Sam elbowed Joseph, pointing to Ballard seated in the jump seat of the wagon. “That means you can get a better deal on livestock.”

Sam liked to point out the obvious.

Joseph only nodded indifferently. Sam was the same age as Joseph’s father would have been, if the man hadn’t died during the battle of Bull Run. They’d enlisted together after growing up together. They had served together for the North against a list of men like Clay Allison. Sam was almost thirty years Joseph’s senior and walked with a limp from the battle that had taken Joseph’s father.

Sam was discharged following the injury and took the time to bring Joseph’s father back to Cimarron for burial. Joseph had had his own battle-weary strains, fighting in the War Between the States. His father had served under Grant, while Joseph had served under Sherman and Marched to the Sea with the rest of the Union soldiers.

He hadn’t learned about his father’s death in the war until it had ended, and he had come home to two graves: One for his mother, the wife who had died in sickness waiting for Joseph’s father. The other grave was for his father, killed by cannon fodder that had left his best friend, Sam Morro, bearing shrapnel and scars, limping for the rest of his life.

Sam had seen Joseph’s father home from the war. Burying the man next to Joseph’s mother was a luxury most people didn’t get when they lost loved ones. Most dead soldiers never returned from the war, buried near where they had fought and died for the cause.

“Tom’s thinking of selling his landholding,” Ballard said. “I’m considering the same.”

“Tom Boggs is selling his ranch?” Joseph asked, suddenly more interested in something other than Clay Allison.

“That’s what he’d mentioned to Minister Tolby.”

“How long ago did you happen to hear that?” Joseph asked.

He didn’t make it into Cimarron but once or twice a month. He didn’t follow current events. Outside the trouble following the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company fiasco, Joseph tried to keep out of the way and just maintain the ranch. Forced to deal with Clay and pick up supplies, Joseph didn’t spend any time drinking in Juan Charette’s Saloon or visiting the painted ladies upstairs of Clifton House.

When the double doors burst open on Schwenk Hall, all three men quickly turned to the body rolling out the door. The man fell on his back and sprawled in the dust. He struggled to stand up again.

Joseph didn’t hear any gunshots, so whatever happened between Clay and the man had started with an argument but might yet end in gunfire. All others waiting to deal with Clay or hovering around the outside of the meeting hall scattered the moment the man’s form slammed through the double doors.

Joseph stepped away from Ballard’s wagon, heading toward the meeting hall. Ballard hauled on the horse reins to get the wagon turned around in case Clay started shooting. When he emerged from the building, he had a hand on the Colt top loader in his holster and the other pinching his hip, facing the man.

“You’re a rotten cheater,” the man shouted. He stood up, swaying on his heels.

Joseph recognized the voice and the dirty face after the man landed in the street on his back. Someone pitched his hat out the door, following the altercation. Dewey McCarty was a hotheaded man with no patience and a sharp tongue. He had a soft middle from indulging in ale instead of working on the ranch. The alcohol had caused most of Dewey’s struggles when it came to business and just living.

Clay stared out at Dewey, facing him from the boardwalk. Joseph saw many of the witnesses standing in the shade on the opposite side of the road crossed the street when the doors burst open. No one wanted to stand behind Dewey in case Clay settled the argument with a bullet.

“What did you call me?” Clay asked. He’d heard it. Everyone close enough to see the interaction had heard Dewey’s proclamation. But Clay wanted to make sure that people understood he had just cause to do so when he drew the pistol.

“You heard what I said,” Dewey shouted. He pointed his pistol hand at Clay. “You’re trying to undercut our livestock. We can’t live on those prices.”

“Son, you ain’t gonna live past this day if you keep opening that trap of yours.”

It was another of Clay’s tactics. Joseph knew the man had a way of getting under people’s skin. If he needled enough men, eventually he’d get to shoot one of them.

Dewey’s pointed hand dropped as Joseph got a few yards from the interaction. He stood to the side, facing Dewey, while Clay waited akimbo on the boardwalk with the meeting hall at his back. He the sun on his face, but not in his eyes. The wide-brimmed hat kept his eyes hidden.

Joseph wanted to intercede. He didn’t want to see blood spilled because of Clay’s insatiable appetite and badgering.

Dewey’s mottled red face suggested he’d drunk more than his fill that day already. He liked the booze. Dewey didn’t have enough common sense to get out of his own way. Before Joseph got in the middle of another man’s commerce with a merchant of death, he heard the shrill call from a woman coming to Dewey’s rescue.

“Damn it, Dewey Aloysius McCarty,” she shouted. “What is the matter with you?”

Christine McCarty emerged from the throng of spectators like she’d burst from the wild sagebrush growing near the corner of the building. It was a safe place to watch a gunfight without becoming a victim. She came from the direction of the general store, carrying a burlap sack over her shoulder. Christine dropped the bag on the ground before boldly stepping between Clay and her older brother.

“That man’s trying to swindle us,” Dewey said.

What followed was an embarrassing spectacle that kept most people entertained. But no one wanted to be standing in Dewey’s boots when Christine smacked him across the face.

“How dare you speak about Mr. Allison like that,” she said. She saw Joseph standing a few yards away from her brother. Even Joseph turned from her fierce and fiery gaze like he’d glimpsed the penetrating stare of Medusa before the gorgon turned him to stone. “He is an upstanding cattle broker and someone who takes time for us to make the best deal possible.”

“But he’s—”

“Hush now, no buts,” Christine said. She turned her back on her brother long enough to address Clay, who watched in quiet amusement. “Mr. Allison, I want to apologize on behalf of my brother. Sometimes, he lets his anger and booze get the better of him.”

People milled around, departing from the sudden fray. It was one thing to watch a man gunned down in the street, but another thing entirely to witness family squabbles. Even Joseph wanted to walk back to where Sam had taken shelter on the far side of Ballard’s wagon, in case Dewey pulled his sidearm.

“You need to muzzle that dog of yours, Mrs. Strickland,” Clay said in warning.

“It’s Miss McCarty,” she corrected. “Same as my brother, and I think we’ll need to discuss the rates and get back to you.”

“Well, do as you see fit, but the price just dropped again.” Clay used the commotion as a platform to caution others who didn’t like his deals.

“Why you son of a—” Dewey found it difficult to continue when Christine poked him in the gut with her finger.

“We’ll manage on whatever we get, Mr. Allison.” Christine had an audience of men who’d already had their sour dealing with Clay. The volume of her voice rose when she added, “Many of these hard-working men agreed with the reduced rate of twenty percent on the head from last season. But if you feel you’re not willing to make the same deal for a widow and her brother, perhaps we can get Minister Tolby over here to help us pray on it.”

It was the mention of the local clergy that made Clay visibly react. Tolby already spoke for the displaced settlers in the area. If he got involved in Clay’s business, the broker might find more enemies than just unsatisfied customers.

Joseph saw the eyes flash when Clay’s hat tipped up at the statement. Clay chewed and spat black juice on the boardwalk near his boot. It didn’t seem to faze Christine. In her eyes, Joseph saw sheer strong will. She needed to defend her brother and keep the cattle broker from going back on an already reduced deal.

“Well, I think we can come to some arrangement as long as your brother knows enough to stand there like a man and apologize to me.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Dewey demanded. He fetched his hat from the dusty ground and slapped it against his dungarees. “I ain’t apologizing for you undercutting us.”

Christine wasn’t close enough to slug Dewey. Joseph knew she managed her brother as well as anyone dealing with ornery livestock. “Mr. Allison, you can see my brother’s in no condition to deal with you directly. I can’t apologize enough for his poor behavior and ignorant choice of words.”

“What are you doing, Christine?” Dewey didn’t know enough when he’d already won the battle. “He insulted me. He pushed me out the door. If that bastard thinks he can—”

Dewey’s right hand wedged closer to his hip. Christine stood at her brother’s left side and bristled. The moment his hand moved toward the holster, she flipped the hat off his head again with a swat.

Dewey grunted, stepping away from Christine to retrieve his hat again. That was when Clay’s hand rested against the pistol grip. It was a posture typically followed by the use of the gun—which wasn’t something Joseph wanted to see. No one needed another display of Clay’s cruelty. Christine wasn’t afraid of Clay. And if she had to pick up her dead brother’s pistol to finish the job, Clay wouldn’t hesitate to add her blood to the dusty street.

Joseph stood back as long as he dared. As Clay’s hand closed around the grip of his Colt, Joseph snatched Dewey’s right arm, pulling his hand away from the gun.

“Well, that’s probably good enough for you, right Mr. McCarty?” Joseph used his height and strength to push Dewey away from the trajectory of Clay’s gun, closer to his sister. Joseph saw Christine watching him with disbelief. “You can put it down in the ledger, twenty percent, same as the rest of us. I’ll help Dewey get back to his horse.”

Dewey struggled against Joseph’s grip on his elbow, while Christine continued to pull her brother by the left arm. They managed to get out of the street and away from Clay’s eye line before Dewey finally shook off Joseph’s hand.

“Thank you, Mr. Moyer, but I think we can do just fine without your interference.” Christine’s words stung Joseph with embarrassment. He released her brother’s arm.

It was the McCarty temperament that ran thick through their veins. Their father had been a hard-handed and shrewd cattle rancher before his unfortunate death at the wrong end of a gun years ago. Joseph didn’t expect an apology from either of them. But he thought a sliver of gratitude was warranted, given the alternative to facing off with a killer like Clay.

“I’ll be off,” he said. He turned abruptly, ignoring Dewey’s continued ranting, now that he had a new target at which to sling insults. Joseph passed around the corner, headed back to where Sam waited with a grin.

Clay stood gloating on the boardwalk in front of Schwenk Hall as if waiting for another challenge. Joseph knew the man was attempting to lock eyes with him, but Joseph had had enough of dealing with Clay and wanted nothing more than to be out of town. He only needed to make one more stop before leaving altogether.

“Where did you see Mr. Boggs?” he asked.

Ballard gestured toward the north side of town.

Chapter Two

Christine McCarty had seen more than her share of troubles in her twenty-seven years living in the rugged territory around Cimarron and Santa Fe. While Christine had to deal with the latest in a series of troubling maneuvers from her older brother, she faced the real facts that her unreasonable life was a drawn-out mess caused by men.

“What is the matter with you?” she asked. Her head hurt from anxiety. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen Dewey at the wrong end of an argument; he had a bad habit of stepping into trouble. Still, it was better than seeing him at the wrong end of a gun. “You can’t talk to Clay like that; we need him.”

“We don’t need him.” Dewey couldn’t stand still. Fired up and fit to be tied down, he paced in front of Christine, kicking up the dry soil underfoot. They were behind the long building with the false front. A few dogs were lurking around the watering troughs close to the community outhouses nearby. “He’s going to make a fortune on our cattle, and we’re getting nothing for it. How are we supposed to survive with Clay pulling shit like that?”

Dewey’s hands moved a lot when he talked. His grand gestures suggested he had more than enough energy for another fight. However, his only target was Christine, and she had no energy left to contest Dewey.

“Look, I can’t deal with this, Dewey.” Christine ran her rough hands over her sweaty face.

She’d stopped trying to dress for the town visits. Her long hours on the ranch meant less time to worry about her appearance. The steer didn’t care if she wore a dress or britches, so long as they got the feed and water. She wiped her hands on the cotton work dress and gripped her hips.

“I talked to others around town. Clay’s dirty dealing most of the other cattle ranchers. You think he’s singled you out, but he didn’t have you in his sights until you started getting in his face.”

“I didn’t get in his face,” Dewey said defensively.

Christine glared at her brother, lifting a hand in warning to him. Dewey saw her open palm, and the harsh words caught in his throat. He was an angry man. That anger came from years of struggles that mostly happened because Dewey got in his own way. He blamed others for his troubles. He swore lousy luck followed him everywhere, but Christine knew it was self-fulfilling prophecies, and nothing changed as long as he looked for tribulation.

“The point isn’t about how it happened. It has to do with the fact we need him. Like or not, he’s all we’ve got,” Christine said. Debating with her brother wasn’t something that ever helped; it wasn’t a fight Christine could ever win. “Look, we take what we can get. I think there’s something else we need to consider.”

“Like what?” he asked. As Christine’s lips parted to speak again, before she got any words out, Dewey stopped pacing to shake a finger at her. “And if you’re thinking about selling the ranch, that ain’t happening.”

It was another one-sided argument. Dewey clung to the notion that the land of their parents held some sanctuary for him and Christine. For her, it was a burden, a never-ending upkeep battle that she’d eventually lose due to illness or old age. For Dewey, it was some inspiring, sweeping landscape of four thousand acres upon which their father had built a modest home and raised a moderate family.

All that happened before the war had taken their father and they had buried their mother, died of sickness of a broken heart. Christine had lost a new husband o the same war. But she’d never given him enough of her heart to worry about it breaking. That had come following the death of the child they bore while the father died in a ditch on the east coast fighting rich men’s war.

Somehow, Dewey held some belief that they were responsible for the land, had to cultivate it and maintain it in the memory of their father. It was the only physical attachment they had to the man. At least he’d left a house on homestead property, and that had appealed to Christine.

The encumbrance fell heavily on Christine’s shoulders because she had to do most domestic chores, while Dewey spent most of his time tending the grazing cattle. Unfortunately, he spent more time socializing and inside the saloon than watching over the herds. It was another problem she had to contend with.

Dewey sensed Christine’s frustration and lowered his accusing finger.

“What is it that you’re thinking?”

“I want to get away from cattle altogether—now, you hear me out, Dewey. Could you listen to me, finally? I got a plan, something that will benefit us over the others trying to get more from men like Clay for their steer.” She waited to continue. Somehow, Dewey didn’t interject when his eyebrows raised so much the brim of his hat lifted on his head at her suggestion. It gave Christine time to take a breath.

“Now, Tom Boggs is selling his ranch,” she said. “He’s getting rid of his land. I know with what we have in cattle this summer and what I have saved up from winter beef, we can make him a generous offer.”

“How do you know he’s selling?” Dewey asked in a doubtful tone.

“Hattie told me.” Her closet friend in town had a habit of absorbing information like a sea sponge. And sometimes, much like a sponge, when squeezed, Hattie expelled more than enough for anyone to glean details.

Dewey nodded. He knew better than to question Christine’s source. Hattie Keith was her closest friend. Someone who had grown up with them and had watched over Christine while she had buried a child, Hattie was reliable. It was a lot more than she’d ever gotten out of her brother.

“Hattie had a conversation with Mrs. Boggs on Sunday after church. They had tea together, and she kept talking about selling and moving to Santa Fe.” Christine dropped the burlap sack in the wagon while talking to her brother.

“Ain’t that, you know, girl-talk or gossip?” Dewey asked, waving his hand in circles, trying to conjure the words. “That ain’t nothing like him saying as much during a poker game.”

Christine considered it. “It’s true, we don’t know for sure. But if we offer Mr. Boggs better than fifty cents on the acre, and we have the cash to back up the offer, I bet he might go for it.” She saw Dewey’s eyes glaze over at the prospect of so much money.

Before he judged the sum of hard-earned cash for the property, Christine continued, “I figure we can sell the steer and start farming. This way, we won’t compete with the other cattlemen. We don’t have to worry about people like Joseph Moyer getting better on the head of his cattle. We don’t have to worry about Clay Allison no more. And I don’t have to worry about you getting shot because you don’t know how to keep that trap shut long enough to stay out of trouble.”

For the first time in longer than Christine remembered, Dewey had nothing to say. She stared at her brother, waiting for a tantrum or some absolute refusal. Instead, he shook his head mildly.

“I don’t know nothing about farming. I only know cattle.”

“What’s to know?” she asked. “We till the fields, we sow, and we reap what we harvest. There’s a lot of opportunity in our soil. We have access to the river on a good portion of our property. If we get Mr. Boggs’ acreage, we can have more land to plant more crops.”

“What are you planting? What do we know about tilling or harvesting?” He got fidgety again. It was endless questions with him.

Dewey got nervous about things he didn’t understand. Christine recognized her brother’s behavior, and she did her best to work with him. As he started pacing again, Christine wanted to plant the seeds of possibility before Dewey’s fertile brain turned hot again and dried up.

“We can have corn, beans, and onions. The more farmland, the more opportunities,” she said quickly. Christine wanted Dewey to feel her excitement. “If one crop fails to produce, we’ll have others to get us by, and we can learn.

“You weren’t always a cattleman, Dewey. Our dad wasn’t a cattleman before the war; we got a silver of dirt and a few steers. I think we got lucky. But we’re pushing against the stream. We ain’t going to keep going or keep the ranch if we don’t make changes.”

She touched her brother’s sleeve. A fair wind kicked up dust around them, and the arid breeze didn’t help cool the perspiration under her hairline or inside the bodice. But when Christine got back to the ranch, she’d change into a button-down shirt and dungarees while she tended to the chicken and milked the two cows before sundown.

“Please, just consider it. I can’t do this without you.”

It was a lie. But Christine only had enough energy for one battle at a time. Dewey’s behavior grew more erratic every season. Soon, he’d either send her to an early grave or to strike out alone. Either option was something Christine didn’t want to face, but had considered for a while.

Chapter Three

Tom Boggs and his wife Grace spent a lot of time socializing whenever they came into town. It was something that happened to most people, including Joseph. As much as he wanted to get into town, get business done, and get back to the ranch, something or someone always got in the way.

Meeting with Clay Allison had been his one intentional plan that day.

Then, Dewey McCarty had gotten in the way. Now, it was on everyone’s mind and lips. Word had gotten around town that he’d had a verbal dispute that had spilled into the streets. It helped that Dewey had enough common sense not to go for his gun during the altercation. But it had caused much pride in Clay.

The price on the steer from the cattle broker changed again. Joseph hoped that the man’s agreement with him matched Joseph’s records. It wasn’t like him to get even when it came to doing business. But most people hated Clay. And his leverage and sinister reputation along the Santa Fe Trail had caused other brokers to stay clear of Cimarron.

“You’re thinking on that McCarty woman, ain’t you?” Sam asked, trying to keep up with Joseph with his bad leg.

“No,” he said, too quickly to hide his feelings. Whenever he got around Christine McCarty, Joseph wanted to spend more time with her. But it wasn’t meant to be, and he was first to realize his life and her life were well apart. “I’m thinking on why Tom wants to sell his property.”

“You think it has something to do with Maxwell?” Sam asked.

They still had another block to walk before reaching the Methodist church where Minister F.J. Tolby liked to sway hearts and minds when it came to the great land conveyance that had displaced too many families.

“I suspect Tom and Grace don’t have much fight left in them. There isn’t much we can do when it comes to land dealings. But we can try to make a bid on what he has,” Joseph said.

“Even if he’s willing to part with half the lot, that still gives us another five thousand acres for the livestock. We can increase our headcount by another two hundred. Maybe if we can fatten up the steer, we can head into Colorado with the herd and get a better price per head. We can bypass the broker and pocket the difference.”

“There are a lot of things that can happen from there to here,” Sam said. There was a smile pressed on his lips, creasing his whiskers. “You think you can get others on board a cattle run?”

Sam had aged and gnarled over the years since Joseph had hired him as foreman. He had slowed down and fattened up considerably after the fall from horseback that broke his leg.

“Against a Common Menace” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Joseph Moyer is a rancher with an ambitious dream. He intends to buy up as much property as possible to expand his cattle herds, and eventually, to be able to bypass the sole but corrupt cattle broker in the area. To his surprise, it isn’t only the broker who stands in the way of his plans, as someone else wants to purchase the same piece of land and expand their ranch. Joseph isn’t afraid of amicable competition, until someone starts playing dirty, and things get out of hand. Now someone wants to destroy his ranch, and even worse, someone wants him dead. When everything seems to point in one direction, will Joseph know better than to pass quick judgment?

Christine McCarty is a widow with nothing left but a modest ranch and a big brother to take care of. She’s got plans to expand the ranch and turn it into something less demanding of her time and efforts. In order to achieve her dream of a better life though, she must go up against another potential buyer. As if this wasn’t enough, she also has to deal with her brother, Dewey, who’s not as manageable as the livestock at the ranch. Dewey is stubborn and narrow-minded when it comes to making changes to save their property, and on top of that, he’s a notorious troublemaker. When someone starts making trouble for Joseph Moyer, everyone believes it’s Christine’s brother causing mischief. Will Christine find the courage to defend her brother when she also has doubts about Dewey’s innocence?

As one tragedy strikes after another, Joseph and Christine are convinced that somebody is out to get them. When someone turns up dead, the whole town wants the killer brought to justice. Everyone seems to know who is to blame, but Christine and Joseph know better… Will they manage to work together in order to unravel the truth and get to the killer before it’s too late?

A pulse-pounding drama, which will make you turn the pages with bated breath until the very last word. A must-read for fans of Western action and romance.

“Against a Common Menace” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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